The oldest active Catholic cathedral in the United States, this beautiful church and basilica at the heart of the Old City is named for the 13th-century French king who led two crusades. The current building, which replaced two structures destroyed by fire, dates from 1794 (although it was remodeled and enlarged in 1851). The austere interior is brightened by murals covering the ceiling and stained-glass windows along the first floor. Pope John Paul II held a prayer service for clergy here during his New Orleans visit in 1987; to honor the occasion, the pedestrian mall in front of the cathedral was renamed Place Jean Paul Deux. Of special interest is his portrait in a Jackson Square setting, which hangs on the cathedral inner side wall. Docents often give free tours, or pick up a brochure ($1) for a self-guided tour. Books about the cathedral are available in the gift shop.
Nearly every evening in December brings a free concert at the cathedral, in addition to the free concert
series throughout the year.
The statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus dominates St. Anthony's Garden, which extends behind the cathedral-basilica to Royal Street. The garden is also the site of a monument to 30 crewmembers of a French ship, who died in a yellow-fever epidemic in 1857. The garden has been redesigned by famed French landscape architect Louis Benech, who also redesigned the Tuileries gardens in Paris.